Labor Day this year was tops; football is back; festival season is upon us; and the live music SCENE has never been better! We stopped into a baker’s dozen of shows with you in August and were blown away with what we heard. Here’s a bit of all that happened:
KING OF THE ISLAND - Which would be the return of Kelly McGuire after an extended tour across the U.S. performing house concerts, festivals, and partaking in his new zen activity (fly fishing in the mountains), and finally “enjoying being the writer I’ve always wanted to be.” We caught Kelly and his band at T-Bone Tom’s just before his ninth annual Redfish Island Raft-Up on the Stargazer. This has been one cool gig aside from the usual musical fun, as this annual event benefits the Galveston Bay Foundation, a good bunch of people who tend to the health of our ever-so-vital, Galveston Bay. Aside from McGuire’s attention-grabbing song writing are the refreshingly free and breezy “in-the-moment” lead breaks that Ken Reynolds peels off the Godin six-string. The other band veterans include Carl “Hoop” Hooper and Matt Gonzales holding down the fort on bass and drums and steel drum/percussionist John Patti joining up after meeting Kelly at the ’07 Key West Festival. By all measures, the 9th Annual Raft-Up was an over-the-top event this year and in our minds, can only be topped possibly by the 10th Annual event next year to which we’ll be looking forward to!
ONE FUN FLOCK - Would be the Galveston Bay Parrot Heads Association and to cap off this year’s annual Riddles in the Sand event, the weekly Friday gathering at Noah’s Ark celebrated in fine style with Southbound on the stage and presentations of $20,500 split between the Ronald McDonald House and the Wounded Warriors. Year in and year out, the local Parrot Heads bring out their A-Game and since many of you out there are a part of the flock, here’s a hearty “Cheers!” to all of you for a super fine year!
PAWS FOR THE CAUSE - The Fashion Faux Paws doggy fashion show presented by Saving Pets Lives with Theresa of 94.5 The Buzz, which is an adoption/fundraiser event at Scout Bar. While supporting the cause for homeless animals at the South Houston Animal Shelter, a true “No-Kill” shelter, patrons also had the chance to take in powerfully good local music from Soul In Tension, Cassette Tape and Oceans of Slumber. You’ve read about the first two groups here in the SCENE and it’s time to make mention of OOS. Most heavy metal groups impress us with a tightly synchronized pattern, and OOS takes it up a step. This self-released Houston heavy/progressive metal sound portrays the two tightest guitarists, Sean Gary and Anthony Contreras, who we’ve heard on the local live music circuit, lock step with each other and with Ronnie Allen (vocals), Keegan Kelly (bass) and Dobber Beveryly (drums). We first heard Oceans Of Slumber headlining the 2nd annual Will Play For Food, ran short on time for proper mention. I’m telling heavy metal listeners now, if you haven’t already figured it out yet: Oceans Of Slumber could be your group.
WELL DONE - Goes to Myrna Sanders and the Kozmic Pearl (Janis Joplin Tribute Band) including Greg Barr on Bass, Laura Magers on Keys, Paul Nussbaumon on Guitar, and Dave Thomas on Drums. I had an enjoyable chat with the band before their next to last show at the House of Blues where Myrna shared with me how the nature of some of Janis Joplin’s songs have taken their toll on the vocal chords. Sincerely, I wonder if Janis herself could have kept singing the songs as we know them or if she would have had to adjust the voicing registers over the years as say, Robert Plant, Bono or Roger Daltry. For this show, the band substituted common cover favorites with some of Joplin’s other materials better suited for Myrna’s voice. You could feel the intensity the band put forth as they made SURE they got it right – not only technically, but with passion and force. These (newer) lyrics forced me to not rock out much that evening but rather to “listen.” I was profoundly struck with the hard hitting intensity in the lyrics throughout the evening, which were the essence of the life Joplin dealt with in her day. Yet still relevant today, and obscure only in the sense that she had so many other easy-to-recognize hits during her shooting star career, all of which earns Kozmic Pearl the title of a true tribute band and not a band that simply plays favorite covers. For the span, Myrna and Kozmic Pearl has put together the Janis Joplin tribute, “Congratulations for a run well done!” seems fitting… Cheers!
Opening for Kozmic Pearl that evening was Nightbird, a Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks tribute band that plays throughout Houston and the region, and – in my mind – needs more gigs down here in Clear Lake. We first covered Adam Walton when he played at IkeFest and caught Brooke Alyson at Mean Gene Kelton’s Memorial Benefit, which places this group as waaaaaay overdue. Joining Brooke and Adam were Kelli Thompson (Keys), Wolfe DeLong (Bass) and Jason Phillips (Drums). I found this to be a very enjoyable show and one that I would recommend some of our local clubs consider hiring. Until then, keep your eyes peeled for Nightbird.
KATIE’S - Has a new seating layout making this great place to catch the finest of live music even better. In Bob Emmons’ words, “This was the layout I had in mind all along since we opened.” With cozy booths and “eyes forward” seating, we found the new layout super conducive to focus on the stage, and in our case, it was The Paul Ramirez Band grabbing our attention by the jugular. Paul is an “in the moment” type of lead guitarist with a pedal arrangement consisting only of a tuner and distortion gadget, yet he coaxes out some of the area’s finest lead breaks invented on the spot. The term “in outer space” comes to mind… Ramirez also sports one of the smoother voices happening these days and explains, “I never really sang much until I started having to – after Mark May went back to Ohio.” I scored a copy of Paul’s first CD titled “Sex With A Dragon” and was curious how the recording could capture Paul’s fluidic lead breaks. The effort was recorded and mixed at the Fat Tone Studio in Baton Rouge and mastered at Sugar Hill. Overall, this is one well-engineered product that breathes unlike many of the relentlessly compressed recordings frequenting the market the past couple of decades. This is one fine treat for the ears. Paul tells us that he’s already got material lined up for his next CD and that the five-hour drive to the studio assures that he and his musicians are far enough away not to be bothered with the common daily distractions that interfere with creativity. Sounds good already.
THE SEAGULL - Where I caught two interesting shows during the month of August. The first was The Sharks – one of the first bands I covered out on the beat when I started out in recording. The Sharks have added an acoustic flair of the likes of Slaid Cleaves and Hayes Carl to their gritty repertoire. If you’ve got a crowd, the Sharks are your band. The second evening was an intriguing trio of Michael Shanks, Andrew Bateman and Fred Linton together on the stage. Mark McGee got the audio board dialed in perfectly that evening and the sound that night was refreshingly crisp, airy, and delightfully entertaining for the Seagull patrons. More please!
COCK & BULL - IIn the last issue of the SCENE, we mentioned this classy place is one ideal spot to wine, dine, hang out and spend some time. During the month of August, we dropped in and found folks doing exactly that with longtime Clear Lake entertainer Cindy Thomas on the stage. We’ve enjoyed Cindy over the years and were quite impressed hearing a few new operetta pieces added to her mix. Got the evening to spend with fine dining and entertainment in mind? The Cock & Bull could very well be your place.
JACKIE’S BRICKHOUSE - Summer in Clear Lake just isn’t summer unless you take in D2 (Dewayne Skipper and David Watson) at Jackie’s Brickhouse. These two are often out on the SCENE with their high-energy rock and funk. They know how to dial up the mellow meter and entertain those of you seeking a good meal and intelligent conversation with family, friends and business guests. We caught D2 during one of Jackie’s Wednesday Ladies Night and by all means, put this combination on our recommended list.
The second show, we caught at Jackie’s was a nifty group calling themselves the Spiffingtons which played perhaps the widest variety of covers we’ve ever heard a single band pull off – Ranging from Classic & Modern Rock, Country, Pop, Disco and R&B. Makes sense as each of the band (Susan Hickman, Danny Klotz, Darrell Green and CJ DiPalma) were able to carry a strong lead vocal line in each of the genres. Versatile and variety are the Spiffingtons. The long-awaited return of David Madigan came to us and Jackie’s Brickhouse was perhaps the only place on the beat large enough to handle the turnout. David has one of the best sounding amp tones happening these days, which can be best described as a crunchy liquid metal and a sound nobody else has quite matched locally. The acid test came when David went solo and into Eruption. Aside from nailing it as he has so many times before, the truer test is Madigan launching into a driving dance number where folks simply stand on the dance floor dumbfoundedly mesmerized, which happened, too, the night we saw them… David’s back!
IT’S A WRAP - Summer is heading south, but plenty of football, festivals and fun lie on our horizon the this month. Not sure exactly where we’ll be, but we do know I’ll be out there with you, and we will find you out on The SCENE! See you out there!
- Andy Eng